Storms cause spike in Western MT fire activity

Posted at 3:15 PM, Jul 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 17:55:40-04
Near Roundup (Courtesy: Storm Chaser John Ojeda)

MISSOULA – Recent storms have caused an uptick in initial attack and suppression operations on the Lolo National Forest and DNRC protection.

Jordan Koppen with Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation notes that since Monday firefighters have responded to four lightning wildfires and one human-caused wildfire within the Lolo National Forest and DNRC protection areas.

While activity has increased, fuels are still fairly ‘green’ and holding moisture enabling firefighters to quickly catch, contain and control these small incidents, according to a news release. The majority of these wildfires have been under three acres in size.

The Lolo National Forest and encompassing DNRC lands saw widespread rain and lightning events on Tuesday. The added moisture has dampened fuels, cooled temperatures and made fuels less available for fire.

However, Koppen notes that warmer and dry conditions are expected to occur later this week and into the weekend. There is also the potential for lightning strike holdovers to appear as fuels begin to dry out.

Anyone who sees smoke is asked to contact 911 or the Missoula Interagency Dispatch Center at (406) 829-7070.

The Lolo National Forest along with Missoula County Fire Protection Association remains in a moderate fire danger rating. The Bitterroot National Forest also remains under a “moderate” fire danger ranking.


  • Fireworks are prohibited on all state and federal classified forest lands. Fireworks are also prohibited inside Missoula City Limits. Wildfire season is here! Be “Fire Safe” and do your part to prevent wildfires in Montana.
  • Be vigilant and cautious with campfires. Campers should also be careful with campfires, as they are a significant cause of wildland fires in Montana. Campers should completely extinguish their campfire by dousing it with water, stirring it, and continuing to pour water until they can no longer feel heat from the fire and the ash is cold to the touch. According to fire prevention specialists, most people are surprised at how long it takes to extinguish a campfire. A small amount of water poured on a campfire is not sufficient.
  • Debris Burning is closed: Fire officials with the Missoula County Fire Protection Association (MCFPA) have restricted debris burning (outdoor burning) starting Tuesday, July 2. People who burned this spring should go check on their piles to make sure they are fully extinguished.

Some other general precautions include:

  • Never leave children unsupervised around any type of fire.
  • Avoid starting any type of fire when conditions are dry or windy.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Always keep on hand a shovel and water to extinguish the fire.